Wants and Needs Are Not the Same

Human Wants and Needs

We all have wants and needs. Unfortunately, however, we sometimes confuse these two concepts. In fact, many times we regard them as the same thing. But a want is not necessarily a need. We may desire something ardently. And sometimes, what we desire is exactly what we need. But there are times when what we  desire is the last thing we actually need, no matter how intensely we desire it.

When Something We Want Obstructs What We Really Need

We live in times where addictions and unbridled cravings abound. And for years my counseling practice was full of individuals who felt chronically unsatisfied. These folks had intense, legitimate cravings. But what their souls were really yearning for eluded them. So, they settled for a wide variety of cheap “substitutes,” which only made matters worse. Maybe what they turned to was alcohol. Maybe it was sex. Perhaps it was shopping and spending like a maniac all day long. And for a minute, they felt satisfied. But then the craving began again. So, on balance, they were miserable.

An alcoholic will tell you how badly they “need” a drink. Of course, a drink is the very last thing they truly need. Often, what they’re really looking for is anxiety relief. Or they might be seeking to numb emotional pain. A person out of touch with him/herself can be looking for all sorts of things in the wrong ways and in the wrong places.

Folks with an impaired sense of self will tell you how badly they “need” the validation and approval of others. But every time they satisfy that desire in that way they inadvertently further impaire their innate sense of worth. Accordingly, when someone is smiling at them fondly, they feel great, at least for a bit. But when someone shows displeasure with them, they only feel worthless again.

Looking For Answers in the Right Place

A major key to emotional, mental, and spiritual health has to do with where we look for the things we truly need. Those who excessively look to people, places, and things to satisfy run the risks of both addiction (if satisfied) and depression (if denied or suffer loss). Now, I’m not saying we don’t need others. Far from it. But we can’t healthily connect with and/or love any other if we haven’t yet learned how to deeply connect with and love ourselves. Looking excessively outward inherently invites the risk of dependency. Our hearts hold the answers to what we truly need. But we have to keep, regular, intimate company with them. That’s part of the message I try to bring in Essentials for the Journey.

Manipulators and other disturbed characters have “radar” for your wants and needs. And they know how to exploit both for their own purposes. (See: Character Disturbance, p. 179 and In Sheep’s Clothing, p. 21-22.) That’s why it’s so crucial to be self-aware. It’s also why you need to faithfully distinguish between what you crave and what you legitimately need.

An Interview You Might Enjoy

I recently appeared on one of Lisa Alastuey’s podcasts on manipulators and character disorders. Be sure to check it out on her YouTube channel or my channel. And share the link with anyone you think might benefit from hearing the discussion. I’ll post a new “Character Matters” podcast next week.


4 thoughts on “Wants and Needs Are Not the Same

  1. Dr. Simon this is something I’ve been coming to terms with. Having been raised by two narcissists, I learned to survive by focusing outward. Always scanning for the next threat, trying to anticipate what might be coming so I could try to head it off. I didn’t know true security. Just survival. Too young to survive on my own, I learned to put them first. That was a requirement. Boundaries were seen as disloyalty.

    Now I realize that although I’m alone, deep down I’m terrified of the reality that I am truly alone. I have no family, they are all disordered and empathy and kindness are weaknesses to be targeted and the person destroyed. It’s a false sense of security with CD’s. There is no real security with someone who harms you, it’s a fantasy. It’s a fantasy built on hope and fear.

    With the considerable damage done by years of torment, I deeply fear that I will always be alone because the CD’s of the world recognize my vulnerabilities and target me. It’s exhausting be around new people. Seems like everyone has an agenda.

    Time is now spent mostly alone sorting through this baggage, disposing of what I can and learning to deeply connect to and love me. That it’s my right and responsibility to be loyal to me first.

    Learning to accept my reality is painful but necessary.

    1. Wow!!! I couldn’t have said this better!!! I too was raised by two narcissists they were two totally different people but sooo much the same. I never understood when I was being abused as a child but now I do.
      I have many siblings whom I have loved with my life, spare room, food, jobs, vehicles etc. In return? NOTHING BACK…certainly NOT LOVE. Thats what I got for being there with an empathetic heart.
      I too, am learning to love myself and especially my grandkids. I often feel it’s hopeless as I fear (and I know I shouldn’t) they too will all become narcissists.

  2. Thank you. Thank you so much for your work. I need your healing so much in my life right now.
    May God bless you.

    1. To get details about consultations, use the “contact dr. simon” feature on the contact page. I generally reply within 48 hours. I would provide instructions here, but that would publish some information inappropriate to post.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *